14 Ways Technology Supports a Culture of Feedback

Feedback is best when it’s immediate, timely, and focused on student goals. In many classrooms, it’s often easy to spot examples of summative feedback (i.e. an end-of-course test, term paper, or project presentation). At GOA, we are placing an increased focus on formative feedback, which helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work. As our colleague Susan Fine has written about, formative feedback is essential to supporting students in locating their intrinsic motivation and driving their own learning.

Since our student courses are online, we have been thinking deeply about how to use technology in concert with sound pedagogical practice to deliver formative feedback and support student learning. Inspired by Grant Wiggins’ 2012 post On Feedback: 13 Practical Examples, and we’re eager to share 14 ways technology supports a culture of feedback.

1. Collaborate on writing assignments.

A middle school Language Arts teacher asks students to use Google Drive for an in-class writing activity. Students open their own Google Docs, share them with the teacher, and set to work responding to a prompt. The teacher opens each student’s document in separate browser tabs and is able to monitor and provide feedback on student work in real time. In addition, students share documents with each other for peer feedback (which the teacher can also monitor and coach). As she observes student work, the teacher identifies themes and examples for the entire class and consolidates that feedback on a single “master feedback document,” which she shares with the entire class.

2. Engage families.

In an effort to engage families and home communities in supporting student work, a second grade teacher uses a video discussion tool like Flipgrid that allows him to share student work or questions as prompts for short video responses from families, neighbors, and friends. Students can later watch and discuss these videos with their teacher in school.

3. Connect with mentors.

Towards the end of a field research project in biology class, a science teacher identifies professional researchers and academics who will volunteer to listen to and provide feedback on her students’ data and analysis. Using video chat tools with screen sharing capabilities like Skype or Zoom, the students share pre-prepared slidedecks or other visual aids with these outside experts and take their questions and feedback.

4. Use your voice.

A world languages teacher wants her students to practice their listening and comprehension skills while processing and acting on her feedback. Using a tool like Kaizena, she leaves audio comments on student written work. Using her mobile device, she also uses voice memos, WhatsApp, or Voxer to send short audio messages that include specific action items for each student to work on in preparation for oral exercises in the next class.

5. Cultivate collaboration in small groups.

A high school English teacher wants to bring his writing workshop discussions into new environments and modes, so he creates a Slack domain for his class that allows his students to share work and discuss it in small groups or as a whole class via Slack’s various channels and chat tools. To ensure feedback is high quality, the teacher adapts a tuning protocol for Slack and “pins” it to his class domain.

6. Leverage automated feedback.

Rather than use his time to correct multiple choice quizzes, a history teacher decides to leverage automated feedback via tools like Quizlet and Kahoot to give students not just the chance to do concrete work at any time that will get immediate feedback, but also the chance to make multiple attempts, ensuring the content “sticks.” These tools are also playful and gamified, alleviating some of the drudgery of concrete quiz work.

7. Personalize feedback.

A sixth grade teacher wants her feedback to feel more personal and engaging to her students. She asks students to submit work in digital format, and, using screencasting tools like Explain Everything or Loom, she pulls the work up on her computer screen and records herself giving feedback in real time, then sends those videos back to students rather than handing back marked-up papers.

8. Develop a network.

Determined that her students should not only understand statistics as a field, but also appreciate its relevance to the world outside of school, a statistics teacher asks her students to apply their learning to current events and real-world problems like sports, politics, and social justice issues. Students synthesize their ideas into usable and user-friendly articles, posts, and visualizations (using tools like Gapminder and Venngage) for blogs or social media like Twitter and LinkedIn. To get feedback, they ask their followers and experts they find via these online communities to comment on their work.

9. Create instant videos.

A soccer coach uses a mobile app like Hudl or Coach’s Eye to record her players during practice drills. She and the players can watch and respond to the videos immediately, making adjustments in real time. These apps also allow the coach and players to share videos both within and outside the team, watch playback in slow motion, isolate short clips for targeted feedback, and use telestration to annotate videos.

10. Create online spaces for peer feedback.

Eager to incorporate more peer feedback into his ceramics class, an art teacher uses a multimedia tool like Voicethread to allow students to post photos of their work online that can be viewed and commented on by peers, either by video or audio. This asynchronous format allows students to reflect on and provide feedback on their peers’ work at their own pace, perhaps even during class while others are working on projects.

11. Give students control of pace.

In his highly differentiated classroom, a third grade teacher begins to explore the use of artificial intelligence and adaptive learning technology like Knewton or Smart Sparrow. The teacher is able to sequence exercises and assessments in new ways, allowing students to tackle new tasks according to how they perform on previous ones. The teacher then uses analytics of students’ performance to work individually with students who might need support or new challenges.

12. Flip with purpose.

A middle school math teacher enriches her flipped classroom practice by using EdPuzzle or Nearpod to embed short quizzes, surveys, and short answer questions into her instructional videos. Her students are able to test their own mastery of the content, make several attempts by rewatching the video, and provide the teacher valuable insight via the analytics that capture and synthesize student work.

13. Make it multimedia.

To encourage a learning environment built on transparent feedback, a social studies teacher asks students to create a Padlet where they post images or links to their work (annotated maps, infographics, essays, etc.). Both teacher and peers then follow up by adding their own short feedback posts to the Padlet, aggregating the discussion in a usable, shareable grid. Students have the option to share feedback in a variety of ways, including text, image, or media file.

14. Ask YOUR students how YOU are doing.

Knowing that one of the most meaningful ways to create a classroom that encourages formative feedback is to ask for feedback and to model a culture of feedback, a ninth grade science teacher embeds her slidedecks in interactive tools like Pear Deck in order to assess students’ understanding and ask their opinions in real time. In addition, she leverages digital exit tickets like those in Socrative to gather and synthesize student feedback and self-assessment in a useable, archivable way.

How do YOU use technology to support a culture of feedback in your classroom? Tweet us your ideas @goalearning!

Global Online Academy (GOA) reimagines learning to enable students and teachers to thrive in a globally networked society. Professional learning opportunities are open to any educator. To sign up or to learn more, see our Professional Learning Opportunities for Educators or email hello@GlobalOnlineAcademy.org with the subject title “Professional Learning.” Follow us on Twitter @GOALearning. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter here.

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